Why I Hate Halloween….Sorry Ray Hanania

Hugo Chavez, Pat Robertson, Islamic scholars, Jewish authorities and
others from a wide-range of political and religious thought all have one thing
in common; they dislike Halloween. Sunni Sister in her blog highlighted this issue in a piece yesterday when she responded to Arab Christian writer Ray Hanania in which he stated that Muslims who do not let their children celebrate Halloween are anti-American, arrogant and hateful. He went on to call Halloween a Christian holiday.

Hanania sits on the board of Free Muslims Against Terrorism which is an organization founded by Kemal Nawash who is the Mr. Burns from The Simpsons look-a-like who struck out defending terrorism suspects so he tried to make his name to fame in monitoring Muslim extremists. Hanania incidentally is not even a Muslim which is interesting as he is supposedly sitting on the board and writing for a Muslim organization.

Let us examine a few things. First of all ones Americaness hopefully is not based on whether your kids trick or treat at night or you dress-up like a character from the Lord of the Rings or a Seventies Pimp and escort Wonder Woman to the club for a Halloween party. As an American we have the right to not celebrate any holiday we want and just like Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians and many others we may choose to not observe this holiday which has pagan roots. It is not, contrary to what Hanania said, not a Christian holiday.

On top of that Halloween ranks along with New Years Eve as one of my least favorite holidays; because of the foolishness that I see. Saturday night when I got back to St. Louis and I drove my cab until early in the morning. There were parties all over town and you could see young women in skimpy Halloween outfits and ridiculous looking guys all over the place. I saw plenty of drunk driving and almost was hit by a drunk Wash U student wielding a stick and wearing some kind of a crazy costume. On Washington Ave a friend told me it was so wild that people were having sex inside of the clubs.

On Halloween there are a lot of robberies, partially because police are busy with other things, but also because people are running the streets wearing masks. I do not let anyone wearing a mask enter my cab and I don’t care where I pick them up from and if they don’t like it they can walk or get another cab.

Like New Years Eve, people who are undercover fools find a way to act like idiots and blame it on the alcohol, and they do all kinds of stupid shit. Hugo Chavez stated that Halloween is a “symbol of the American culture of fear”. I don’t know about that but I do know it is a silly holiday but will never end because so many American parents, moms particularly, just cant get over how cute the kids look dressed up like cops and firefighters and they create another generation of those who will perpetuate the holiday.

The Execution of Marlin Gray and Thoughts on the Death Penalty

I have problems with the pro-death penalty and the anti-death penalty crowds. Those who support the death penalty as a deterrent to crime tend to not want to admit that the system can be wrong at times and has executed innocent people in the past. For the most part the death penalty crowd is made up of knee-jerk reactionaries who not only favor capital punishment but favor expatiated death for the convicted. They view greater safeguards against wrongful convictions as a weakness in fighting crime and are upset that it takes so long to kill the convicted. Often they dismiss the possibility of people being wrongfully convicted (and outright dismiss the very real factors of race and class); because they have such an undying love for law-enforcement and it is hard for the crowd that supports the death-penalty to admit that police can also make mistakes.

Those belonging to organizations opposing the death penalty have their own shortcomings. It is not enough for them to oppose the death penalty on moral and ethical grounds; they have to also make those sentenced to die out to be angels and believe any bullshit story of innocence invented by the defense. There are few who can make me as nauseous as self-righteous naïve liberals and capital punishment is one of their biggest issues. When they gather for these vigils on the night of executions one who didn’t know better would get the impression that the state is getting ready to snuff out Mother Teresa. Lost in their argument are the victims of the crime.

The State of Missouri executed Marlin Gray last week while I was in Virginia. Gray was convicted for being the leader of a group of young men who raped and killed Robin and Julie Kerry on the Chain of Rocks Bridge in North St. Louis is 1991.

Let us first state that this was a particularly brutal crime in which two young sisters were raped back to back by the accused and were then forced to jump off the bridge along with a male cousin.

Now, because of some procedural errors, police misconduct and racial overtones many called for the life of Gray to be speared; few actually believed his claims of innocence. Examining the facts it seems as if there was police misconduct, but this is St. Louis so what can you expect, and again in this racially-divided city a group of black men killing two young white girls is going to create some racial issues and tensions. Procedural errors: well as someone who puts the profession of prosecutors somewhere between that of child-molesters and mercenaries ( for the most part) I am not surprised to see those kinds of errors.

The bottom-line for me in my feelings on this case is that no one could show me any conclusive evidence that Gray was innocent and on the flip side there was overwhelming evidence of a terrible crime. So I am shedding no tears for Gray, or his accomplices who are serving life-sentences, and I am mourning for the Kerry family and the senseless loss of life that led to those killings.

1991 was a bloody year in St. Louis; crime was out of control, gang-wars raged all throughout the metro area and that summer was particularly brutal with a number of high profile gang-killings. St. Louis was out of control at that time and this murder happened in the context of that time. Some friends of mine knew Gray and a couple of the other convicted killers. Some of them embraced Islam after being incarcerated and received religious counseling from the Islamic Institute of Learning. Some Muslim brothers grew close to them and wanted them to be released and said, “look what they did was in their jahiliya (pre-Islamic days) and they are Muslims now so we should pray for their release and help them to that end.” When I disagreed with that opinion we went to a sheikh and asked him to give an Islamic opinion on the topic and he responded that “Masha’Allah he is Muslim now, but the crime has been committed and he must receive the punishment for that crime and if he has true faith at this time he should accept the punishment.” The new shahadah gets a clean-slate in Islam; but any pre-existing crimes must be adjudicated.

In America I am generally opposed to the death-penalty. Not because there is anything immoral about capitol-punishment; but because human error inevitably means that innocent people will die, and that given the way our system works those who will die will mostly be poor and people of color. Allah has ordained in the Quran that the death-penalty is a just punishment for the convicted killer; but the Sunnah encourages other ways of dealing with the crime and safeguards against wrongful convictions. A Muslim can never say that the death-penalty is un-Islamic, but we can say that society should protect against the wrongful use of it, and I don’t know if that can be done in our criminal justice system that revolves around money, race and class and not justice. However, the victims of these crimes need justice and I will not become one of the naïve who sits outside of the court house begging for mercy for grown men who raped and killed two young women. Maybe I do not favor the death-penalty in America, that does not mean that there are not instances were it was correctly implemented.

Iftar on Campus…Ushpizin

I fell ill with my asthma in VA and had a lot to do so I have had a delay in my postings. It was nice to see so many brothers I hadn’t seen in so long and I also enjoy being in the DC area. It is a pleasant place to live, like NYC, that can make one justify the outrageous cost of living.

This was a piece that I wrote after attending an iftar program the other night at Northern Virginia Community College….

Last night I attended a special Ramadan event and iftar at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, VA. The event was attended by over 300 Muslim students and a number of interested non-Muslim onlookers.

The school itself is perhaps 40% Muslim and the MSA is by far the largest campus organization. One can find a mixture of skin-tight low-rider jeans and complete jilbabs and hijabs on campus and sometimes you can even find both on the same sister such as on young lady last night who appeared to have on a mixture of tight-jeans, a belly-dancer shirt decorated with what I can only describe as silver shingles, and a hijab.

Amongst the brothers you also had a mix of those who seemed more overly observant and those who looked like they were auditioning for the next Jadakiss video. Ethnically there were a lot of Somalis, all sorts of Arabs and a handful of South Asian Muslims along with several African-American Muslims. I was one of two white Muslims and I had a chance to meet a Bolivian woman who just became Muslim two-weeks ago masha’Allah.

The speaker was a brother named Kamal Makee whom I have known for years. He is a brother originally from Sudan but has lived in VA since he was a young teenager. For years he has been a student of the eminent Sudanese scholar Jaffar Sheikh Idris (May Allah reward him and his family) and Sheikh Ali al-Timimi and began teaching classes at Dar al-Arqam in Virginia which is now closed.

Kamal gave a wonderful lecture entitled “Why Islam” which I will try and get an audio of Insh’Allah. In this lecture he discussed the basic principals of belief in Islam and of the two extreme positions in Islam; one position is extremism in religious observance and the exaggeration of certain aspects of the deen and the other extreme position is to not observe Allah while still remaining in Islam or being sinful. Kamal stated that in America the only one that is considered an extremist is the one who is extreme in religious practice and the one who is extreme in the secular or sin is not an extremist. Islam is the middle-path, and what is the middle-path; is it the so-called modernist moderates today or does the Prophet (s) represent the middle-path?

The crowd was generally receptive, but more than a few were more concentrated on intermingling with the opposite sex, and in addressing this issue Kamal said “you know brothers think of the wisdom of brothers praying in the front at the Masjid. If the women prayed in front and bent over in front of the men the Masjid would be full all day and every day with brothers” which brought laughter from the crowd.

It is also amusing to note that almost all of the brothers, and many of the sisters, dressed in a hip-hop style and walked the hall as if they were walking towards mainline in a maximum security prison. These are immigrant brothers and sisters that come from middle-class (and even wealthy) suburban families who have never even seen the streets much less spent any time in the streets. However, one cannot be judgmental, because hip-hop has given these young people a message they can relate to and identify with as opposed to the voices they hear in mainstream American society. Islam is nothing strange in the world of hip-hop and Muslims can be found at all levels of the industry. Imagine a practicing Muslim like Mos Def being accepted in Country Music or modern rock.

Ushpizin

I also had the chance to seen an outstanding Israeli film last night titled Ushpizin. It is about the holiday of Succoth, where Jews build ritual huts to live in outside of their homes to remind themselves that they are only guests in this world, and it is traditional to have guests for such an event. The story centers around an observant couple who come from a rebellious background and their prayerful desire to have a son while they are interrupted in Succoth by guests from the main characters past who have escaped from an Israeli prison. It is an excellent film and I highly recommend it. One reason I like this film so much is that it does not seek to demonize religion, rather creates an understanding of the lives of observant Jews, and it has powerful messages of forgiveness and transformation.

The Role of Islamic Activism in America

Islamic activism is nothing new in America. Since the 1950’s activists from the Muslim World began moving to the US. During the 1990’s a well-organized Muslim activist structure was formed and American-Muslims for the first time began to have a real voice in the political process and Muslims gained the ability to fight employment and religious discrimination.

The goals of most of the main Muslim organization such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society, the American Muslim Council , the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America were twofold; first there was the desire to make Islam and Muslims mainstream in America and to gain a greater acceptability of Islam in American the American mind and secondly to use this position in America to alter the US foreign policy towards the Muslim World. Many Muslim leaders sought to emulate the successful strategies of the Israeli, Armenian and Greek lobbies in America.

When those planes hit the twin-towers on 9-11-01 they not only brought down those physical structures and Americas false sense of security they brought down what Muslim activists in America had been fighting for during the previous six-decades. The perpetrators of that act achieved what no anti-Muslim force in the US had ever been able to accomplish and stuck at the height of Muslim political prowess.

Islamic history in America can be divided now into three categories; the history of Muslim slaves in America, pre-9-11 Muslim America and post-9-11 Muslim America. In 2000 political candidates from around the nation had campaigned at masjids and sought the endorsement of Muslim leaders and victories were being won on the political front in the name of Islam. The likes of Steve Emerson were largely off the air and a positive vibe about the future existed in the community.

Of course we all know the history. Since 9-11 there has been a full-scale assault on the Muslim community. Many brothers are in jail on false or trumped up charges, Muslim charities have had their assets frozen or seized, Muslim leaders are being targeted and prosecuted and the media is full of anti-Muslim hate speech. We are living under siege in this country and any Muslims who feels they are safe in America at this time is delusional.

9-11 exposed two things in America. First is exposed the fact that white America hasn’t evolved all that much since the days of Jim Crow and lynchings. The mentality of group-indictment is still alive and well in America; one black man stole from me so all black men or bad and one Muslim committed an act of terror so all Americans are terrorists, that is the way of thinking. White America, with all of its pent up anger, lashed out towards Muslims in a way they wish they could lash out towards African-Americans but is no longer political correct to do so. Oh how they wish they could get on talk-radio and speak about blacks they way they speak about Muslims!

The darkness of hearts was revealed on 9-11. Notice how this hatred initially was geared towards Muslims but now Latinos have been caught-up in this nationalistic fury. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado calls for all out war on Latino immigrants and the bombing of Mecca. The zeal that leads to the Minuteman being placed on the US-Mexico border leads to the profiling of Muslims. They go hand in hand. Norman Mailer, the eminent American writer, rightly stated that the “white mans nose was bloodied on 9-11” and that white America had to respond to assert their dominance in a changing world. This is similar to when the Rev. Billy Graham declared his support for the Vietnam War by saying “Christianity needs a show of force.”

The second thing that 9-11 exposed was the fact that Muslims activists in this country had failed to educate the Muslim community on their civic responsibilities in this country and that Muslims had failed top formulate a domestic agenda. Brothers had their minds on changing policy in Palestine or Chechnya but didn’t see the need to focus on what was happening in their own communities. Because of this ignorance of the American political process, and the social fabric of American society, the mainstream leaders supported President George W. Bush in 2000 (and no I will not forget that and will not forgive until those who did that publicly repent).

Immigrant Muslim leaders failed to understand the role of race and religion in America. Instead of recognizing that Muslims in this country are basically in the same boat as African-Americans and Latinos these Muslim leaders sought to curie favor with Wall Street, the GOP and Yale and were dissed by all and this came out of their cultural ignorance.

The fight of Islamic activists today in America is a fight for survival; because every vocal Muslim today is a target. To be an activist at this stage in the Muslim community takes courage because you will not only be targeted by the government but by the anti-Muslim lobby and by self-hating Muslims and advocates of an apostate Islam.

However, having said this, if you are well-intentioned, dedicated and lawful there is a place for Muslim activists in America. Indeed organizations like the Muslim Students Association are experiencing a massive growth as Muslim students, conscious of their Muslim identities, are becoming in large numbers passionate advocates for Muslims in their communities. Other organizations, such as MAS, have corrected a lot of their pre-9-11 faults and are now embarking on a path of serious domestic activism in America in conjunction with anti-war, African-American, Latino and progressive causes.

We do have our unique view as Muslims and becoming active does not mean that we have to completely embrace the positions of the left or the right. It does mean, however, that we have to stand up and be counted. We cannot sit by idly while America is at war in Iraq and not speak against it and we cannot see Muslims persecuted at home and remain silent; and we also cannot see the injustices of the lack of a prevailing wage, health care, education, and racial justice in America and remain silent.

Blog of the Week and Our Masjid in the News

Jihad of Umar has been selected by the Riverfront Times, the local St. Louis alternative weekly (equivalent to the Village Voice or City Paper in STL) as the blog of the week.

Below is the story of some of the issues that our masjid is going through in St. Louis in an article by the South Side Journal.

Mosque seeks permit to build addition Jim MerkelOf the Suburban Journals South City Journal Wednesday, Oct. 26 2005 Whether a mosque should put an addition onto its building sparked debate at a recent hearing of the St. Louis Board of Adjustment.The Qobaa Mosque operates in the bottom two apartments of a four-family flat at 1925 Allen Avenue, in the McKinley Heights neighborhood.The mosque seeks a permit to allow it to place an eight-foot-by-11-foot addition on the front of the building. The addition would be used for the shoes of worshippers, who customarily remove their shoes before entering the mosque.Tim Kaminski, a spokesman for the mosque, said a foyer now used to place the shoes is too small for that purpose. About 30-40 people attend the 1:30 p.m. Friday Jumma prayer service, sometimes more during Ramadan, Kaminski said.One suggestion by neighbors at the Oct. 12 hearing was that the addition be placed on the rear of the building. The board asked the mosque to work out a compromise with the McKinley Heights Neighborhood Association.The two sides discussed the issue at a meeting Friday.The permit is needed because the addition would be in front of the building line, said Frank Oswald, deputy city building commissioner.The mosque also sought a permit to erect a non-illuminated ground sign in front of the building, but withdrew the request so it could revise the plans, Oswald said. The mosque had put up a brick sign giving its name on the ground on the side of a hill in front of the building. The city ordered it taken down because there was no permit.The hearing was needed because the city rejected the request for a sign and to build the addition.Jack Knapp, president of the McKinley Heights Neighborhood Association, said he personally took the city’s side at the Oct. 12 hearing.”I wish that eventually they would strategically think about moving to a more suitable building,” Knapp said. “I would hope that they would find it in our neighborhood.”Of the addition, Knapp said, “It’s a pretty good-sized structure on that building.” Speaking for himself, he said he doesn’t see it anywhere else on the block, he said. It isn’t compatible with the neighborhood, he said.There are other extensions of front porches around the neighborhood, Kaminski said. The mosque is flexible and could make a smaller addition or one around the back, he said.Some are unhappy about the mosque’s effect on parking on a residential street in the McKinley Heights neighborhood.Umar Lee, who attends services at the mosque, said there have been complaints about parking, particularly the number of taxicabs. “Taxi drivers have the same freedom of assembly that everybody else does,” he said.A church that used to operate across the street attracted three or four times as many cars, Lee said. A business that operates in the former church building allows the mosque to use 12 parking spaces, he said. “The whole parking thing is really a non-issue,” he said.The mosque has made efforts to reach out to the community and to be a good neighbor, Lee said.Lee gave his view on the issue on a blog of the St. Louis Independent Media Center, http://www.stlimc.org/newswire/display/774/index.php.A number of Afghans, Somalis, Kurds and Albanians, along with some Bosnians, attend the mosque, Lee said.Muslims occupy the two upstairs apartments of the building, Lee said.

Getting on the Slimdog, ACC, and Indie Book Stores

Man I have caught the Greyhound at least a hundred times. Everything that can possibly happen on the Greyhound has happened to me and I have seen it all. For those of you unfamiliar with the Greyhound, which I have rode in about thirty-states, the company features customer service on par with the middle-east and transportation about as fast as the pony express. If you are going a short distance, like NYC to DC or St. Louis to Chicago, then the Greyhound will actually work pretty good for most people. The problem comes when you have to catch it a long distance like I will be doing tonight when I ride from St. Louis to DC.

Every time I ride the Slimdog I say it will be my last; but then something happens and I end up back on the bus. For example this time around I was supposed to be riding with two brothers but when the one brother cancelled I basically ran out of options. I do not trust my 97’ Cavalier with 172,000 miles on it to make it back and forth, it is too late to get a good plane ticket, and I can’t find anyone’s credit card I can use to rent a car so it will be the Greyhound.

The Greyhound has unique demographics and if you go to a major terminal you will likely see the combination of the following; the Amish, young people heading to boot camp, soldiers on leave, parolees, people on the run, drug smugglers, undocumented workers, newly arrived immigrants, drifters, truckers, runaways, people scared of flying and those who are too poor or broke to travel any other way.

In recent months the Greyhound has cut out many of its smaller stops and is catering more to the urbanized areas of the country and this is cutting off the only out of area transport that many of these areas have. One place that the bus will still stop is at prisons. Sometimes one or two prisoners will get on and sometimes like twenty will get on. Usually the guys are nervous and well-behaved butI had the unfortunate experience of being on a bus when an eleven year old girl was assaulted in the back of the bus by a parolee. Another time I was on the bus in Chicago and two guys who had been in prison for years got off on the West Side stop and just stood on the corner for a few minutes looking both ways before they could figure out which way to go; that strengthened my belief that if you take someone out of society it should be your responsibility to appropriately put them back in

On other occasions I have seen drug raids on buses going to the west coast, sex scenes, all sorts of drugs being used, fist fights, melees, and nervous breakdowns. Once I was on a bus that was late leaving the New York Port Authority and then when we got to Philly the driver got sick and we had to wait an hour for the new driver. This driver was new and promptly got lost on the interstate and when it stated raining she told us that she couldn’t drive in the rain and pulled over to the side of the road. When she dropped us off in Columbus, OH we got a good driver; but in Indiana the air conditioning went out and he pulled over to a gas station in the middle of nowhere to try and fix it. The gas station was surrounded by wheat fields and looked like a scene out of Children of the Corn as a group of guys in jeans and overhauls just stared at us as they leaned on their trucks. After about an hour of fooling with the AC, in 1oo degree weather, we drove off again, and when we got about twenty minutes away we realized we had left an elderly Jamaican woman from Brooklyn at the station and when we drove back to retrieve her she was on he knees praying.

Another time on the Greyhound I was in an accident in Pennsylvania; it was minor but the accident happened while I was reading the Mossad expose “By Way of Deception” and it occurred to me for a second that we may be getting hijacked. The worst thing that happened to me however was when I was sleeping in the middle of the night on the bus and a 6’5 large-build Native American guys who was drunk passed out and landed on top of me and I had to fight to get him off of me. We ended up tussling for like an hour on and off and most people were asleep and the bus driver seemed to not care as long as it didn’t get out of hand. When we stopped to pick up in some small town most people went outside to smoke cigarettes or to go to the Subway and get a snack; this guy headed straight for the gas station to get some more liquor and when the driver saw that he decided to just leave him there and let him figure out another way to get to where he was going.

On another note for all of you in the St. Louis area please pick up a copy of the Arch City Chronicle particularly if you are interested in grassroots independent journalism. The ACC covers the people and politics of the St. Louis region. In the latest edition I have a commentary on the future of the Republican and Green parties in the City. Props to editor and publisher Dave Drebes for getting the circulation up to 20,000 and on his outstanding column in this editon.

Also, before I leave tonight, I will be attending the five year anniversary party for Subterranean Books, the new and used book store located in the Delmar Loop that is consistently rated one of the top in the area, and in my opinion one of the best indie books stores in the nation. The store is located at 6275 Delmar and is co-owned by Javier Parada and Kelly Von Plonski. Wherever you live I encourage you to support your indie booksellers whenever you have a chance. For a list of indie booksellers in your area you can consult booksense

Different Kinds of Iftar at Different Masjids

I have made iftar at many different Masjids over the years in many different cities. The crowds that you see at the various Masjids differs depending on what kind of a Masjid you are at.

For sake of simplicity I will divide the Masjids that I have made iftar at over the years into these categories; the African-American Sunni Masjid, the WD Masjid, the bourgeois immigrant Masjid and the ghetto immigrant Masjid. Each Masjid has its own unique method, flavor and cuisine but some things are usually in common. For example; most will have a large number of single brothers who cant cook and don’t have anyone to cook for them, poor Muslims who cant have a good meal at home and those Muslims who will at a big meal at the Masjid and then go home and throw down at the dinner table. Of course at some Masjids you always have the homeless brothers who come in and are like “Assalamu alaikum akhee where is the food.”

The African-American Sunni Masjid can be anything from a hardcore Salafi Masjid like in East Orange, NJ or Germantown Philly to a Jamil al-Amin joint to a place like Masjid at-Taqwa in Brooklyn where Siraj Wahaj is imam. At these Masjids stuff is usually more regimented and you better not go for seconds before your turn or the brothers from security will be ready to put in work. You can find a lot of fried fish and chicken usually with some form of bread and some spaghetti. Some Masjids have more than others; one poor Masjid I was at brothers only had cinnamon rolls and Ramen noodles (what they call Crackhead Soup in prison). One other Masjid only had chicken McNuggets and Snapple. The brothers and sisters will be completely separate here.

WD Masjids (those that follow the leadership of Imam WD Mohammed) tend to have the same kind of cuisines just with more greens. You always have some old pioneer sisters cooking in the back and you listen to the brothers coming in and swapping stories about Saviors Day in 1972. But when it comes time to pass the drinks these brothers always have the all-natural fruit drinks on hand like Omar on the Nile and that ilk. Whereas in the black Sunni Masjid you will sit on the floor at the WD joint you will sit at a table and there is a good chance you will have to pay for the plate and that the proceeds will go to the building fund. There will be free mixing of brothers and sisters and you may even get a sister run up to you and give you a hug or slide you the digits on the low.

If you go to the bourgeois immigrant Masjid you will find that iftar is given out in a very organized fashion ( unless you are at Dar al Hijrah in VA where there is a buffalo stampede after the Maghrib Tasleem), but the South Asian Masjids tend to be the most organized. You got your iftar samossa, dates and whatever else they will give you in a nice little box with a plastic spoon or fork and some bottled water. It feels more like Starbucks than a Masjid. You pray Maghrib at this Masjid and the imam usually recites two of the last ten surahs (the shortest) and then it is time to grub. You get a nice plate of food, that will include some salad, and it will be quite tasty; the only thing on the cheap is the ghetto soda they get which depending where you live could say Vess, C-Town, Tropical Fantasy or Bubbas on the side. You will notice that most of the Masjid leaders, or wealthy Muslims who sit on the shura and probably run it is a social club, are nowhere to be found as they are retreating to their McMansions for a big meal. You can expect meat and rice every night and if it is a South Asian place expect food that could heat up Alaska. The sisters are normally close to the brothers and if you are here, like I have been in the past, you may have some single brother sitting next to you and tapping your shoulder every three minute and asking you to check out the sister walking by. “Is she married brother?” Hijabs will vary at these places but you will see a lot of the Benazir Bhutto convertible hijab. Now of this is an Arab run Masjid then there will probably be a greater separation of the sexes.

The ghetto immigrant Masjid has a lot of variance. One Masjid that is attended by refugees primarily used to have dates and crackers for iftar. BTW, I’m not talking about gourmet crackers from some yuppie store; I’m talking about those big boxes of crackers you can get for 50 cents. Some of these Masjids are the recipients of a lot of saddaqa during Ramadan so you always have a lot of meat as wealthy doctors drop off half a farm worth of meat as a Ramadan ritual. Here it is hardcore and you may not be able to find any eating utensils as brothers go straight Sunnah and eat with their hands. I have also noticed that there is a shortage of beverages at these places and that most of the brothers don’t drink anything with their food so I usually bring some soda or juice for everyone to drink. At these Masjids food will be good like twice a week, when the rice and vegetables are fresh, but then you will get like two or three days in a row of stale rice.

Who Needs to Catch a Cab….and Who Doesn’t

There are a lot of people who need to catch cabs. If you have been clubbing and drinking, if you have to go to the city and haven’t mastered urban driving or you cannot parallel park, if you can no longer see, and if it is raining and you can’t drive in the rain then you need to take a cab for reasons of public safety. As a matter of fact the city should absolutely encourage this sort of thing. To this end I believe there should be DWI checkpoints outside of every nightclub and bar and sports stadium and the technology exists to do this and you wouldn’t need the checkpoints to be manned. If you have been ticketed for drunk driving in the past you should have to breathe into a machine before you get into your car and that technology also exists. As a society we do not take drunk driving seriously and you can kill entire families and not serve time. There are many reasons for this but I happen to think one of the reasons is that prosecutors and police each have high rates of alcoholism and that drinking is basically a part of their professions and they have some sympathy for the drunk drivers who may not be bad people outside of there tendency to kill children and run over old ladies after a few cold ones.

Now I will not reserve all of my anger to drunks who need to catch cabs and those who cant drive (a lot of these bad drivers can be found in SUV’s and vans but you also have a lot of urban so-called hipsters in Minis who can’t drive mainly because they don’t know where the hell they are going and couldn’t park a Mini in a spot reserved for monster truck).All these people definitely need to catch cabs.

If you don’t know how to treat the driver with respect then do your own driving. If you have to call three cab companies then don’t call any (you don’t know how these types of calls hurt us financially). If you are so drunk that you don’t remember where you live you also don’t need to call a cab; the bartender needs to call 911. If you call for a cab and then hail a cab from another company you also don’t need to catch a cab.

Last night I had some good trips. I took a group of old ladies who had been friends for sixty years from the symphony and dropped them all of at their individual homes in the Western suburbs. They are old school dire-hard symphony fans and they are a dying breed as symphonies across America are seeing dwindling attendances. The one lady told me she felt blessed to have her daughter and all of her children living near but that her friend had all of her children and grandchildren living out of town. I also picked up two newlyweds from the emergency room of a local hospital and had to drive them seventy miles ($90 bucks btw). Where they were going was a rule areas and we had a good conversation on the way but that abruptly ended when I almost hit a deer on a country road and I was paranoid the rest of the way as I thought about the stories they were telling me of deer guts and eyeballs being splattered all over the front seat of one of their vehicles.

How many uninsured drivers are there out there? I saw a wreck on North Grand at Kossuth last night and after the drivers collided they both looked at each other and then hit the gas and drove off speeding in opposite directions; it was the race of the uninsured.

Weed and Oral Sex in Islam and an Old School Bus Driver

A lot of American Muslim brothers and sisters who didn’t grow-up Muslims ( and some who did) had a habit in the jahiliya or during their un-Islamic periods; they liked to smoke weed, get blazed, or however you want to refer to it.

Many Muslims, even after entering Islam, have a hard time putting what the Rastafarians call the “Holy Herb” down. Because they like to get high they then make excuses as to why it is ok to get high.

“Oh akh the Quran says we should use herbs akh and weed is an herb….it is natural and comes from the earth.” That is generally how the argument goes.

At a Masjid in St. Louis I once knew a brother who would smoke weed for Suhoor. When I took a trip to Atlanta to visit some brothers I walked into the small Masjid and you would get high just standing there the smell of weed was so thick. After making two rakats of taheel tul-masjid a brother I had never met greeted me and welcomed me to Atlanta and invited me to his friend’s house across the street.

When we walked into the door the smell was even thicker than that of the Masjid and a brother with a kufi on sitting on the couch was rolling a fat joint and when I say fat I mean like one of those Cheech and Chong joints.

“Masha’Allah akh welcome to Atlanta. You wanna hit the L akh?” The brother said.

What ever happened to offering dates and baklava? A few years before some brothers in Brooklyn were smoking weed and they chastised one of the brothers for not passing the joint to the right. “The Sunnah akh, is to pass to the right.”

This reminds me of when I was in Palestine and for those of you who know the culture you will know what I am talking about. Whenever a brother pulled out a cigarette he would offer you a cigarette and in a group setting he would offer the entire group a cigarette. “Please brothers have some of this cancer I do not want it all to myself.”

For the record I think there is virtual unanimity amongst the scholars that smoking weed is haram. So if brothers and sisters smoke don’t try and Islamically justify it just recognize it as one of your weaknesses which we all have.

I once was with this Palestinian brother locked-up at the Oklahoma Federal Transfer Center and he wanted to ask me a question. He was serving as an imam for prisoners in the facility where he was doing time and I asked him what was the question that he was asked the most often by the prisoners.

“Oral sex brother….all the American brothers want to know if it is halal or haram and this is the question I get the most often.”. He said.

Now to be honest with you I thought he was lying or communicating in some sort of Arab humor that I didn’t get. That was until I started giving lectures in prison and I started getting that same question over and over again.

We are talking about mostly new Muslims here, who haven’t yet grasped the oneness of Allah and the message of the Sunnah, or even memorized the shahadah or al-Fatihah, and they wanna know if oral sex is halal or haram. Furthermore they are in prison and I couldn’t imagine any possible circumstance in prison where it would be allowed unless you married a guard which is about as likely to happen as Bush sending his daughters to Iraq.

It must have been one of those things that prior to that point I just hadn’t noticed because within a six-month period I had several brothers ask me the question so I decided to go and search for an answer. I went to the salafi brothers and they informed me that there are two different schools of thought and opinions amongst the salafi scholars; the first group says that oral sex is frowned upon, but not haram, because it is an act which mimics animals and is also in imitation of kufar. The second group says that it is completely halal because of the hadith of the Prophet (s) in which he encouraged foreplay between spouses and that these are naturally gratifying activities that will help the spouses have a better marriage and is likely to lead to the birth of more Muslims (as the Prophet (s) said “increase’) .

On a cabbie tip I had an old man in my cab tonight who told me that he had been driving tour buses for musicians for fifty years and was presently driving some girl named Ana who was playing at Wash U. He told me he started as a musician at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and used to drive the bus for his own band and for some famous country singer named Tubbs. Since that time he has driven for Bobby Brown who he hated, Whitney Houston who said everyone hated and was worse than Bobby, Megadeath who he said are serious Christians who fly their preacher in every Monday and have Sunday school on the bus, Ricky Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and others. His daughter-in-law drove Eminem on tour and she said that Eminem was a “beautiful person.” He added that most hip-hoppers don’t hire drivers because they just hire a friend to drive.

The Saddam Trial Begins

What a farce. Are we supposed to actually take this trial seriously? Why didn’t Saddam do like his sons and grandsons did who fought to the death in their battle with the American occupation forces and spare us from the Arab OJ trial?

So everyone is staring at CNN, ABC or MSNBC and no one has any sound. Instead we have to listen to TV commentators tell us some BS we have already heard a thousand times before. I will shed no tears for Saddam when and if he hangs; but there is no real difference between Saddam and Talabani, Jaffary, Chalaby and the rest of the criminals the US has helped put in power. History will show, that for all of his crimes against the people of Iraq, Iraq was run more efficiently under Saddam before 1991 than it is now.

If one is going to rule Iraq, as it is presently constituted, then one has to rule with an iron-fist. If Ibrahim al-Jaffary or any other Iraqi ruler has to rule Iraq, without the overwhelming presence of the American and British troops, then they will be forced to rule violently. The only other choice, and this is where I disagree with many of the Iraqi Sunnis, is to develop some form of federalism in Iraq. Now, you have to give the Sunnis their due, and say that while Iraq can be federal in nature it should have one unitary foreign and economic policy and oil revenues should be equally divided between all provinces.

Ok, now the sound is on, and we can hear Saddam and he is defiant as expected.

What a lot of Americans don’t care to understand is the fact that after the Iranian Revolution the nation of Iraq was under a serious threat from Iran who sought to export their revolution to the rest of the Shia world. It was priority number one for the Khomeini government in Tehran to put their Shia brethren in power in Iraq. So Saddam did what he had to do to counteract the Iranian aggression and at the time the US and most of the Western powers recognized that and supported him. As part of this Saddam was forced to deal with the Shia threat within his borders and it is here that Saddam went overboard and committed some very serious human rights violations against the Shia population.

To his north Saddam had a Kurdish population that yearned for independence and he had a choice to make; shall I let them gain independence and spread Kurdish Nationalism throughout the region or in the national interest should I keep them within the nation of Iraq. The decision was made; with a consensus from the Shia and Sunni populations to not give the Kurds independence and thus Saddam had to squash the rebellion. In this sense Saddam is right in line with American foreign policy; because it is also the longstanding policy of the US that there should be no independent Kurdish State in the north of Iraq. Again the problem with Saddam is that he went overboard and failed to recognize any human rights norms in his fight against Kurdish separatists. However; what Arab leader does follow human rights norms? No Arab leader does and many of those Arab leaders are on the payroll of the US. Furthermore; history shows that far fewer Kurds died under the rule of Saddam than did in Turkey. The Turks have consistently been more brutal to the Kurds and at the same time remained US allies.

The point is not to defend Saddam; but to give some perspective. We will see in ten-years if there is Shia Saddam or Khomeini ruling Iraq as I believe or an Arab Thomas Jefferson as the neo-conservatives believe. There should be only one question for the US; does the nation of Iraq threaten the US? The answer should be simple; Iraq has never in its history threatened the US.

Educated Muslim Women and the Hypocrisy of Many Muslim Men

I was at the Masjid last night breaking my fast and enjoyed a very good Somali meal of fish, rice, potatoes, vegetables and the injira bread. After we ate several of us sat around and chatted for a while as is the custom. Somehow we got on the topic of Saudi Arabia and we talked about the benefits and drawbacks of living there and I told them that if I got the right job offer I would live in Saudi Arabia were wages are fairly high. One of the brothers asked me if it was hard to find a Saudi woman to marry and I told him that yes it is very difficult to marry Saudi women unless she is a highly educated woman like a physician or an engineer; because in the KSA most men do not like to marry highly educated women.

The brothers I was speaking to, who were Somalis and Pakistani said that was stupid and asked why that was the case. An Arab brother (not a Saudi) responded that it was because when women get educated they are problematic and that they get strange ideas in college. Therefore, he said, it is much better to have an uneducated woman.

Immediately I became angry, as did the Somali brothers; if the women is ignorant, and the women is the first teacher of the child as Prophet Muhammad (s) has said then you will have ignorant children who will perpetuate an ignorant society. This Arab brother who said that it is better for women not to be educated, which is not from Islam but from Arab culture, is a physician himself and you would think that he would have a little more sense.

Does this brother wish for his daughters to become ignorant as well? How can he expect his children to be anything but ignorant if the mother of his children is not educated? This is a big problem in much of the Muslim World; but it is most prevalent in Arab countries. How can these counties ever hope to be economically competitive and self-sufficient if they have half the population written out of the equation?

Unfortunately this was not the first time that I had heard talk on these lines and in general many Muslim men are hypocritical in their attitudes on Muslim women. When speaking to non-Muslims they glorify the position of Muslim women; but within the community they fail to fulfill the rights of Muslim women. They chastise Muslim women for not covering properly or wearing proper hijab and then go to the mall or the street and look at asses going left and right with their brothers.

On Fulton Street in Brooklyn, which is full of Muslim businesses and street vendors, you always see brothers with big beards and kufees flirting with non-Muslim women wearing tight-jeans or short skirts. When you ask the brother what he is doing he will say “Akh, I’m just giving Dawah.” Which prompted the statement of Muslim scholar Bilal Phillips who said “Why don’t you ever give Dawah to ugly women?? They need Dawah too.”

The same brother making so called Dawah on Fulton Street will then walk into Masjid at-Taqwa , Masjid Muslumeen or Masjid al-Faruq on Atlantic Ave and go berserk if he sees a Muslim woman not covered properly; but a lot of them would bang that same sisters back out on the DL if given the chance.

A lot of the reservation about Muslim women becoming educated comes from brothers who are themselves ignorant. They do not want their wives to be able to tell what kind of a fool they are and they feel that if the woman is educated she will then be able to see him for the moron that he is and she will lose respect for him. Incidentally, after all of the fronts, a lot of these women, even without an education in the formal sense, are very intelligent and can see their husbands for the idiots they are and or help shape their husbands into better men.

Not to be too harsh; the education level of Muslim women in almost every country is rising and statistically American-Muslim women are by far more educated then the average American woman and I think that a lot of brothers are excellent husbands and that many many brothers actually find an intelligent woman desirable- even in Saudi Arabia.

My Family: “As Far as Our Old Man Got” and The Death of the American Dream

Do you remember the old Billy Joel song where he said “everyone could hope to make it as far as his old man got.”

That is how most Americans have historically grown-up believing that each generation would do better than the past and that was the American Dream. In the Post WWII era the veterans of the war went to college by the millions thanks to the GI bill and entered white-collar America in the fifties and led to the suburban housing boom. Most of these GI’s came from poor or blue-collar families and far exceeded the dreams of their parents who reared them during the Great Depression.

Those GIs who didn’t go to college really didn’t sweat it that much because they came home to union skilled trade, manufacturing, transportation, and government jobs. Without a college education, and many without even a high school diploma, they were able to get jobs that allowed them to live comfortable middle-class lifestyles for their entire lives. My grandfather was one of those men; he was a marine in WWII and fought in the Pacific theatre. He only had a grade school education and was one of 14 children his mother had (several of them died during birth) and grew-up poor during the Depression years. After coming back from Vietnam he worked as a taxi driver, a laborer and at a dairy before he ended up landing good union jobs at factories as a pipefitter that lasted for the rest of his career until he had a heart attack. A man who grew-up poor to a laborer and homemaker; my grandfather was able to buy decent homes, decent cars and provide good health care to his children and had a reasonable pension and Social Security waiting on him upon retirement. He owed much of his relative success to his hard work-ethic and honesty, but a lot of it can be owed to the times he lived in and the gains of the labor movement by the time he joined the unionized workforce. Another big factor was that he got married young at the age of 21 to my grandmother, who was 18 at the time, and they worked side by side and in harmony over the years to achieve their common goals. His motto was always simple; hard work, family and patriotism. The sixties didn’t happen as far as he was concerned and he never broke free of the cultural norms that he grew-up with or attempted to expand his horizons. Going out for my grandfather is a night at the horse races and hitting the McDonalds drive-thru on the way home and picking up enough for everyone and getting home in time to watch the baseball game or the boxing matches.

Then the next generation came along. Now I don’t want to get in that many details but let’s just say that our family’s boomer generation hasn’t been as successful as the WWII generation. The three children that my grandparents had, two boys and a girl, all came of age in the 1960’s and early seventies.

My uncle went to Vietnam after graduating from high school. Unlike my grandfather who was in the Battle of Okinawa and finished the war in Japan and China in a military that was enjoying the thrills of a historic victory. Americans believed in the war on fascism and as the GI’s in Europe battled Hitler, the GI’s in Asia sought to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese. Ask any sensible Chinese, Korean or Filipino and they will tell you they thank God for the American involvement in the Pacific theatre. History will record their battles against the Japanese as just as the people of the time recognized it as just.

Vietnam is an entirely different story. America didn’t support Vietnam because any logical person knew at the time that it was an unjust war and attack on the people of Vietnam. Half of the soldiers in Vietnam didn’t agree with the war; but were too poor to get college deferments. Vietnam was a poor-mans war; and my uncle didn’t have enough money to not go so he went. The children of the elite marched in Berkeley and Manhattan while the children of the poor died and were permanently scarred in Vietnam.

Part of my uncles reasoning for wanting to go to the war (even though there really wasn’t much of a choice) was also probably the desire to do what his old man did. The dads of his buddies were all looked at as heroes and his generation wanted to be heroes too even if they didn’t have a heroic endeavor. His experience in Vietnam was poor, something he never liked to talk about. The only thing that was generally known in the family was that he flew on helicopters that picked up the wounded and dead (which is a gruesome job) and that he had fell in love with a Vietnamese girl that he was unable to take home although he desperately wanted to.

The only conversation with my uncle about the war I ever had is when I asked him if a lot of the soldiers in Vietnam used drugs, before he could answer my grandmother yelled out “no they didn’t”; but my uncle was honest and said “ Are you nuts? Almost all of the guys used drugs at one time or another.”

My uncle Jimmy never got married, never had children, never bought a house, was in constant debt, battled with addictions and died of a heart attack before the age of fifty. The American Dream never reached him.

My aunt I will not discuss that much, I guess because my writing is more male-centric because I think I have a better understanding of the trials and tribulations of the male. I will say though that my aunt is divorced, in dire financial straits, has one child, and also appears not to be doing so hot in the American Dream category after being forced to enter the entry-level job market at the age of fifty in order to struggle to keep her home.

Then comes my father. I think he grew-up in an idealized vision of America and that was in his mind as he went to his youth. He soon discovered that the America he grew-up being taught to love was unraveling and he rebelled against the rebels and became somewhat of a reactionary and a life-long anti-intellectual. While millions were protesting the Vietnam War my father actually tried to volunteer for the war (but my grandmother vetoed that idea after threatening the recruiter with a baseball bat) and he passively fought on the other side of his generation during the culture wars.

With no war to go to, and without completing his college studies, my father had three children with my mother before age 22 and by 24 he was divorced and had custody of three children. He had a good union job as a crane-operator before getting laid of and then struggled for years before getting a job as an autoworker with the help of my grandfather. We had lean years before that but that good union job and benefits led to a better life for him and his children. Remarrying once more in my childhood my father became a Evangelical Christian and for several years I was raised strictly in that tradition ( and am left with a taste so bitter from the Evangelicals that I will never be able to get rid of the foul taste). Now he had good trait and bad traits as a father, but that is not the point of this story, the question is did he get as far as his old man got? Well, every home he bought he lost due to lack of payments, he is twice-divorced, had to take an early medical retirement in his fifties, and generally led an unfulfilled life in which he dealt with problems of anger and briefly with other problems and at this age he has a less than desirable relationship with his three children and grand-children (although he is trying and I cant knock him for that). However, contrast that with my grandparents who raised their children, grand-children and are now taking on the grandparent role to their great-grandchildren and are dearly loved by all. It can be safely said that my father didn’t get as far as his old man got.

The next generation came with my sisters and I. Briefly I will tell you my older twin-sisters are doing relatively well although one is having sever financial problems and is married to a guy who makes Toby Keith look like Saul Bellow.

Now to me; the male who was supposed to get as far as his old man got ( and being the son of a man who didn’t get as far as his old man, could I make the comeback for the team?). Well, I began getting in legal-trouble at age fourteen, am a high school dropout, convicted felon who spent time in federal prison, the father of a child born out of wedlock, flat-broke with literally no chance of buying a home and I cant see a union job in site. I haven’t gotten as far as my old man and he didn’t get as far as his old man.

I am poorer than the previous generations and have no health-care but am more educated (not in the traditional sense). I have traveled the world, can speak other languages, am a writer, and read and speak on topics my father and grandfather have never heard of. The places I have been and the things I have seen they can never imagine and for all practical purposes we are living on separate planets. The only thing that binds the three-generations is a love of sports. Seldom have I done anything they can relate to; besides my involvement with Democratic political campaigns which a Democratic family can understand. They were passive observers to most things; I am an active participant in life and the social, cultural and political debates of our times.

Of course, then again, my world is shaped by Islam, and Islam is my culture and way of life and that is something they were never exposed to. The America they both grew-up and passed on down the generations dies with me as I put down my Americaness for a love of the Sunnah of the Messenger (s) and his ummah.

Today there is no American Dream, it is a thing of the past. Not only am I not as far as my father and grandfather but the vast majority of people I know; from black to white, educated to non-educated, and rich to poor have not made it as far finically as their fathers. What many of us share in common though is that we are worldlier than the previous generations and are more engaged in society. So we may not be doing the things that can earn us the money they made; but we are doing the things that will make us happier than they ever were. Many of our fathers, like mine, hated their jobs and dreaded going to work everyday; that is not the case with me.

This was inspired by a guy I had in my cab tonight. He told me that both of his uncles retired from the cab company that I drive for in the 1980’s and that they are both receiving $2,000 a month pensions. Today drivers get no pension, health-care or any kind of pension whatsoever. In my profession we have taken a giant step-backwards. Of course we also live in a time when people are duped into voting against their own economic interests and many workers are so brainwashed by talk-radio that they don’t even know what is good for them.

I looked back at him as a dropped him off in a working-class neighborhood in North St. Louis (Baden) and said “man, we have it worse than our fathers did, don’t you think?”

“I know we have it worse than our fathers did.” He responded.

The modern economy today is geared for the corporate benefit and the interests of the worker have to be laid aside in the era of globalization. This globalized economy will mean that many in America will have unimaginable wealth; while others will live in third-world poverty in the US and there will be nothing in between as the jobs that used to sustain a middle-class lifestyle will no longer be in America.

Muslim Culture and My Evolution

During my time in the Muslim blogosphere, which has been brief, I have encountered Muslims like I have never spent time with before. Phrases such as wanting to be a “super Muslim” replace phrases such as “masha’Allah that brother is struggling hard” in much of this crowd. In the blogs you get your street cred not by being as pious as you can be or struggling to the affect, but by being as boisterous as you can about your love of American and Western culture and by saying as much as you possibly can about how the Muslims are backwards and need to be more like the West.

Some of these Muslims from what I gather really and truly believe what they say and think they are spreading some kind of light. Others, I feel, are almost embarrassed to be Muslim and are following the Sunnah of the Reformed Jews who were embarrassed by their Jewishness and were void of faith but didn’t want to give-up Yom Kippur and Pesach. They view themselves as enlightened and they view Muslims like me and those I love as backwards and inferior and not worthy. We are laughed at for visualizing an idea society based on that of the earliest generations of Muslims and they think we are not educated enough to be a part of the Western secular cultural elite.

In particular I have been accused of wanting to be a “super Muslim (as if that’s bad)” and being a zealot who wants to distance myself from my Americaness. Anyone who says this does not know me. In many ways I am very American; I am a sports nut, I work in boxing, and I face many of the problems that non-Muslims Americans face. I do have my American heroes and my American villains. However, Islam supercedes any American identity I have. My neighbor in America is my neighbor but the man in Kashmir I have never met is my brother.

I am also dealing with the fact that a number of Muslims I know are now in prison on unjust charges, some doing life in prison, and that a number of my other friends are under investigation or have been visited by the authorities. It is hard for me to summon my patriotic spirit under these circumstances. Many of these Muslim bloggers have never came close to trouble, and some even are happy at the calamities of their fellow Muslims ( which is disgusting) and take joy at seeing “jailed Wahabbis” and like the teachers pet or the hallway monitor are waiting for the teacher to come give them there star to differentiate them from the bad Muslims.

My shit is too real for that (pardon the language). I am a Muslim first but that does not mean I have neglected my role in this society. I spent almost all of 2004 working on political campaigns and have worked on dozens of them over the years. In the past I have also worked on living-wage campaigns, strikes, and on legislative issues. I’ll put my record of being involved in American life against anyone in the Muslim community. Today I contribute to a wide-variety of non-Muslim publications ranging from mainstream political publications to boxing and hip-hop publications. Alhamdudilah I do all of this as a Muslim and in my interactions with all of these people I am constantly asked to explain Muslim issues and I see it as a great Dawah (although I don’t always have the answers).

Now some of my detractors who criticize me for me on the issue of my Americaness and wanting to be a super Muslim (and what do they want to be, a Super Yuppie?) are just talking b.s. to be honest with you because they don’t know anything about me. I have been a Muslim my entire adult life and have surrounded my self with Muslims during this period for 14 years. Have I taken on ways of Arab culture? Of course I have but so what. The people you surround yourself with will rub off on you that is only natural. Why am I around Muslims? Because I am seeking knowledge of this deen and want to be around people of knowledge; and I am not talking about the knowledge of Western indoctrination and jahiliyya culture and I am not interested in cuddling up with the enemies of Islam and showing them how cute and cuddly a Muslim can be. If they want peace I can be peaceful and if they hate Muslims and can’t be guided then I send them the greetings of the Hell-fire. It is that simple.

I also have many dear non-Muslim friends here and my best non-Muslim friend happens to be an Israeli so id on think I’m isolating my self too much.

These people, these Muslim bloggers, who think it is so great to surround yourselves with as many non-Muslims as they can and to think and act like them have there reasons and I have mine. When I became Muslim at age seventeen I was just out of jail, I was a convicted felon, a high school drop out, had just had my skull literally bashed in, was soon to be a father, unemployed and was on a fast-track to nowhere.

My initial attraction to Islam was in the message of racial and social justice. The America I grew-up in, and the poverty and racism that surrounded me, was unjust. Whatever idealized version of America these Muslim bloggers who all probably live in fancy neighborhoods and have had the best educations have is one thing; but I lived through some bitter realties of America that your college professor didn’t teach you and they aint talking about at the Whole Foods Market or the coffee shop. A lot of these immigrant Muslims, and even the second-generation, just don’t get a lot about American culture. All they see is the idealized version they are taught in college and think that is real. This is the ignorance that led to Muslims endorsing Bush in 2000; hey the Republican Party said they are all-inclusive and since we haven’t read otherwise it must be true!

So at a young age I had to get rid of all my non-Muslim friends. Would you have preferred I went and did a couple of drive-bye’s between Maghrib and Isha? How bout selling a little crack before Fajir? That would be keeping it real with the Americans wouldn’t it? That’s what Muslim Wake-Up wants, right?

What happened is I studied Islam and traveled all over the US and then the world in my study of Islam. I leaned not only to love the deen but I loved Muslims and I met Muslims from all over the world and became friends with Saudis, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Somalis, Bosnians, Palestinians, White, Latino, African-American and Muslims from even more counties masha’Allah. My way of looking at the world was transformed as well as my mannerisms, speech patterns and way of dealing with people. Many of the Muslim converts on blogs went to college as a non-Muslim, came from strong and stable non-Muslim families and had a good experience in America prior to coming to Islam; I had none of those.

One of my teachers, Jaffar Sheikh Idris, once wrote a tract called the Islamization of Society (a good read btw); I went through my own process of Islamization. My education is the deen and my university is the sheikhs I sat with and the independent readings I have done. A lot of these bloggers have written towards me with hatred, but they don’t know me.

I will stand by my arguments and no matter what anyone says I believe this country, America, is based on many principals that are in complete contradiction to Islam while at the same time demonstrating much of what is good (and whoever makes the leap of flawed logic to that being an endorsement of corrupt and backwards Muslim countries is just an ignorant ideologue). Our job here is not to be followers but to be leaders. We should not emulate the failed movements of Reformed Judaism and Mainline Protestantism; but emulate Bilal Ibn Rabbah who said Allahu-Ahad to his unjust masters under penalty of death. Islam offers a radical alternative to the norms of the West, which is in fact a dying civilization. Do we want to embrace the Islamic culture of life or embrace what Pope John Paul II called the Culture of Death? Do we want to be a saving grace to the West or do want to be polluted by its sicknesses? Do we want to sit in the mountains and mediate while Muslims are being attacked or will we stand and defend them? I will also stand by my argument that when a white American accepts Islam he or she has apostated from whiteness and therefore one cannot be white and Muslim. Of course the skin will still be white, but like scholar Timothy Wise says “whiteness is not based on what you are but on what you are not”. One of those things is not being a Muslim.

Dope Dealer and Bar Owner Comparison, Ho Sitings and More

If you are convicted under today’s laws of selling even a minor amount of crack to someone you will likely end up in prison. If your charge is a federal charge, or you are somehow tied to anyone being prosecuted under conspiracy laws you can be doing a very-lengthy prison sentence on your first arrest. Gone are the days of slaps on the wrists and easy probation, today America is serious about enforcing its drug laws.

This has resulted in over two-million people in America’s prisons and over six million people under supervision. The majority of these people will be serving time on drug charges. Beginning in the administration of Bush the Elder America declared a Zero Tolerance policy on drugs. America has made a moral judgment, with a national consensus, that drug dealers are to be combated and that the trade of drugs is on the lines of the trade of human flesh and should be combated. After all dealers sell things that are harmful, they get people hooked, they sometimes sell to kids and there is a cycle of violence, neglect and anti-social behavior that surrounds the product.

Meanwhile.

There are hundreds of bars and thousands of drinking establishments and night clubs open in every city. They operate with the license of the government, are pillars of the community where they are open and are known as respectable places. For anyone familiar with urban politics in America you will no doubt know that much of urban politicking is done in drinking establishments. These places are also community gathering places; all the way from the gritty neighborhood bar to the bourgeois night club, wine bar or lounge.

These dealers of intoxicants get a free pass from society. They are not asked why they sell a product that is harmful. Citizens do not campaign against them for selling a gateway drug, there premises are not raided and no one questions the behavior of the patrons when they go home.

But everything that can be said about the drug-dealer, the crackhouse and heroin-den can be said about the bar. A harmful product is being sold, it has an ill-effect on a lot of its users, it contributes to crime and violence and it is a gateway drug. The petty drug-dealer is hauled off to prison for years, and I have seen it with my own eyes, and the bar owner get accolades from the press and local government and often times is a part of the power structure.

I thought about this last night as I saw a man I see almost every night. He is a nice guy and lives in an upscale-suburb and has a very good job. However, every night after work he goes to two different bars and drinks for several hours until closing time and then catches a cab home. This poor guy can barely walk when he leaves the bar and has to be helped into the cab. He is supposed to be friends with these people at the bar but what kind of friend helps you slowly commit suicide? How are they any better than someone selling crack? Can they claim the moral high-ground because they have the sanction of the state?

Another issue is drinking and driving. I can tell you as a cab driver I am always very cautious driving in Friday and Saturday nights because there is just so much drunk driving. If the police and political leadership were serious about drunk driving there would be breathalyzer tests outside of every major nightclub and driving check going around smaller clubs. In some of these areas 90% of the people have to be driving drunk I swear and no one cares as long as they are spending money; that is until they kill someone with their driving. Because there are scant few designated drivers, taxis are the best safety mechanism, and often times police are very hostile towards police but friendly to the drunks (and I don’t even want to talk about how many drunk cops I see driving around). Just some food for thought.

I am seeing a lot of crazy stuff btw. The other night I was waiting for a drunk Chinese guy who couldn’t speak English to get in my cab and he was taking all day. In the meantime I was looking at a fairly attractive twenty-something black woman walking towards my car and she was dressed very nice until I saw below her waist; all she had on below the waist was her panties! This was in downtown St. Louis; not the ho strolls on Cherokee, Cass or the Stock Yards, and to be honest I was shocked. Within seconds a guy picked her up and the drunk was in my car so that was that. From low class to so-called high class some of my passengers have been telling me that one of the so-called high class joints here that is frequented by a lot of the younger city-elite is known for being a hang-out for coke heads. Go figure; I thought they would have enough buzz from all the damn coffee they drink.

Muslim Observer Disgraces Itself

This is a copy of my email to the Muslim Observer in response to their front page story on Barbara Olson in the October 13th editon.

Here is my response to your disgraceful article on Barbara Olson. It is a shame that your paper has the respect it does in the Muslim community and I am embarrassed to have contributed to it in the past. May Allah guide you.

I am tired of hearing conspiracy theories from Muslims. We have real problems and in order to deal with these real problems our minds must be firmly rooted in what is real and not in some fantasy world of crazed conspiracies.

Nine Arab leaders are not secretly Jews, ten Jews in New York don’t secretly run the world, Sharon doesn’t bark orders to Bush, and there is no grand conspiracy behind 9-11. Problems in the Muslim World, and in particular the Arab World, are usually ignored and if they are dealt it is common that conspiracy theories will be proffered in order to escape the blame for the problem or the existence of a harsh reality.

Muslims sought to distance themselves from 9-11. It would have been enough to say that I am a Muslim and am opposed to 9-11 on religious and ethical grounds. Instead of dealing with the situation in this mature manner many Muslims have decided to deal with the problem in a childish and ridiculous manner by concocting out of thin air conspiracy theories.

Now I expect this from many of the rags in the Arab World whose writers don’t know the difference between serious journalism and fantasy writing. But I thought that our major American-Muslim publications, including those I had contributed to in the past, would hope to have some sort of credibility. Sadly I was wrong as I read in the latest edition of the Muslim Observer, a leading American-Muslim publication, that 9-11 victim and former conservative activist Barbara Olson was found and arrested in Italy with a small fortune. Perhaps the Muslim Observer can now join forces with Lyndon Larouche and promote his conspiracies of the British Queen and join Louis Farrakhan on the Mother Ship.